Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership.
Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.
Rising costs of production, fewer fanners shipping milk, and difficulty in hiring a cheese maker, were problems of the 50s, Some farmers quit the factory and sent their milk to the dairy in Almonte, but some continued and in 1959, president, Neil McIntosh said they thought they had done the proper thing by sticking with the factory.
The year 1959 had been one of the best they ever had. The average test of milk was 3.5, and the cheese all scored Number One. It proved that good cheese could be…
Where hearth and plenty cheered the laboring swain
How often I have loitered o’er thy green
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
Middleville, a name which would suggest a certain location inland as being in the middle of the township or possibly that of the county, may be the hub towards which the people of the township converge. Like its neighbors Lavant, Darling, Dalhousie, the early settlers were of Scotch origin and thoroughly educated in honesty, thrift and frugality.
As I remember the village it consisted of two general stores, a blacksmith shop, shoe shop, carriage shop, saw mill, two stopping places and three churches and a school.
Climbing a gentle incline on the Lanark road, the traveler approaches the home of William Borrowman, whose surroundings would indicate the owner to be a man of intelligence and interest in the finer arts. Entering his residence he is found to be not only a gentleman farmer but a jeweller whose tradesmanship is not surpassed by the city tradesman.
Some short distance from the Borrowman home is the Congregational Church and manse occupied by Rev. J. Lambert Alexander, a young clergyman beginning his career in the ministry. He is a true success. His real object was that of including the principles of Jesus in the minds and hearts of each hearer. He was a promising youth and afterwards became a leading light in church union. He was strong intellectually, easily approachable, of kindly disposition and tolerant in his views.
Sickness in the village was rare but what did occur was skillfully taken care of by Dr. Mather, a graduate of Queen’s. The clever young doctor was a most sociable man, humorous and intensely interested in the gems of literature. He had a hobby of taking snapshots and developing the same. One fair day he had a few in his window getting the sunlight to bring them to maturity. They remained in the window overnight. The next morning the old lady who cared for his office sympathetically remarked “You didna sell many of your pictures, doctor?”
A carriage and wagon shop was operated by David Dobbie. Carriages, wagons, cutters, and sleighs were then in demand as the motor car was then just an infant. Dave was meticulously exacting in his workmanship and a neck yolk has been known to stay in the vice for three or four weeks before released to the purchaser.
Bill Sommerville, stone mason and plasterer, spent most of this time out of the village in the summer performing work in his line for farmers and other builders. He was always happy and in rain or in shine his greeting was always: “Y-a-a-a, it is a fine day!”. Through time he left the village and took up residence in Lanark where he is now a valued and respected resident.
One of Middleville’s (illegible word) characters was the late Mrs. Guthrie. She was of a calm, refined temperament. Her acts of goodness were kindly performed. Her welcomes were genuine and her life was one of kindness, helpfulness and good will for all. She was a beautiful character the memory of whom will glow forever.
The Presbyterian Church had for its clergyman Rev. Mr. Smith, a man of strong personality. He was a Scotsman and had a good deal of a “burr” in his accent which made him very pleasing to hear. Meeting him in his home was a rare treat. His affable, pleasing manner had a fascinating power which drew the visitor close to him making him forget his vices and his woes while the pastor good naturedly and kindly pointed him to the skies. He did not gain greatness by political power neither by financial power but by service. His was true greatness. He served in the pulpit and out of the pulpit, in times of joyousness and in times of sadness he was with his people, rejoicing with those who rejoiced and weeping with those who wept. He was one of them. In memory I can see and hear him as he expounds on the text “Grieve not the holy Spirit whereby you are sealed unto the day of Redemption”. The sermon done, he placed a hand under each cover and suiting the action to the words said “The book is closed, the sermon is sealed and there was a good one.”
The merchants were Mr. Croft and A.R. McIntyre. General stores were necessary in county villages at that time. The great chain stores almost annihilated the small country stores to detriment of the community. These general stores were the meeting places in the evenings, particularly winter evenings, when weighty subjects were good naturedly discussed.
An outstanding man was Archibald Rankin who for many years was clerk for the municipality of Lanark township. He was thoroughly skilled in municipal law and was a councilor to the members of the Council. He was active in all social activities being a stager of ability. Another singer of note was Peter Morris who I can still hear singing “The Old Oaken Bucket”.
The Sons of Temperance was a thriving organization with a large membership. The township of Lanark was deprived of the right to sell spirituous liquors by what was known as the Dunkin Act and is still under that dispensation.
The blacksmith was a very busy man shoeing horses, making chains, ironing wagons, buggies, cutters and sleighs. Albert Cunningham, and R.(?) B.(?) Somerville stood the strain of this heavy work for many years before being compelled to retire. Christy Jackson, a free going, likeable man, conducted a stopping place near McIntyre’s store and catered to the traveling public with courtesy.
Across a little vale from Somerville’s shop, then up a slight incline to a small tableland stood the school house where Miss Spence taught many of the beginners at that time to recognize “hat, coat, rack”. Yes. 36 years ago.
The great annual event of the village was the “Fair” or more aristocratically speaking “The Exhibition”. This being the last fair of the year, it was always well patronized. Once visited, the conclusion is that fairs of major importance rank as minors in art skill and workmanship. In the building, the paintings, pencil work, crayon work, etc. hold the visitor. The needle work draws the admiration of every on looker; the fancy work of every description demands the unstinted praise of young and old, of the professional and the amateur. Outside the building lovers of animals leisurely move around viewing the horses, sheep, swine, cattle, calves, lambs and the common expression “did you ever see better?” is heard on all sides of the ring. When the day is over, the directors county their earnings and in their joy another success financially has been added to their credit.
The surrounding country is beautiful—the land productive and settled with a sturdy class of people. Here we find the Afflecks and the Somerville string to out number each other. No finer type of citizen to be found anywhere. The Crofts, the Guthries, the Blackburns, the Mathers, the Yuills, the Mitchells and many others of like type. These are real citizens co-operating in all good work their motto being “service for mankind”.
Open Victoria Day weekend to Thanksgiving weekend, noon to 4pm, every Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday. COVID-19 Protocols: Masks are recommended but not mandatory for visitors. Admission $5 per person; children under 12 free.
Mr. Harry Nontell had the grand opening of his new dancing pavilion last Friday night and it drew a tremendous crowd. There were people there from all over the country and parking space had to be arranged for an adjoining field. ‘ The dance hall was converted from the former Blakeney cheese factory (read-Rosebank Cheese Factory) which stood on the shore of the Mississippi River near the north end of the bridge.
It was a substantial building and Mr. Nontell used the main part of it to put down a very fine hardwood floor for dancing. At the side is a refreshment booth and space for people waiting to dance. Pleasantly Located The location is a very pleasant one as the river is wide at this point said there are beautiful falls just below the bridge. Fishing is good in the vicinity and Mr. Nontell proposes to have boats for hire when he gets around to it.
Most of the work of turning the factory into a hall where entertainments can be held was done oy Mr. Nontell himself in the winter months, assisted by his son, Orville, who was home from the West. Harry is a handy man at work of that kind and the floor, fixtures and other alterations are certainly a credit to him. He has made arrangements with Charlie Finner and his popular Hayshakers orchestra to furnish the music. Not only is Charlie a wizard on the violin, but he has no peers when it comes to calling off for the squares.
The crowd on opening night was an orderly one and there was no rough staff in spite of its size. The only unusual incident we heard about concerned a well known young Almonte lady who stepped into a hollow where there was wet clay. She walked right out of her high heeled shoes arid had to wade to dry ground in her stocking feet. Being redheaded and possessed of a temper when riled, she is said to have used a naughty word as she waded back to fish out her pumps.
“Where are all the d—— Sir Walter Raleighs around here?” inquired the damsel plaintively. “The age of chivalry is dead.
In addition to a weekly dance, Mr. Nontell is prepared to rent the hall for private dances, entertainments and receptions. He already has it booked for a number of engagements. It is understood Mr. Nontell has rented the field next to his pavilion and will control the parking himself in future.
Findlays Limited of Carleton Place gave a presentation dinner to employees with over twenty-five years’ service, at Rideau Ferry Inn on Friday evening, Sept. 17th. Seventy-five employees or former employees sat down to dinner.
Among those honored on this occasion was Mr. Stanley D. James of Almonte who has rounded out 36 years in the Company’s service.
The following employees, all with thirty-five or more years’ service, were given suitably engraved gold watches: Edward R. Gibson, Joseph Poynter, Jam es E. Crawford, Alvin E. Baird, Stanley D. James, J. Kenneth Simpson, Carns R. Lever, Earl L. Fleming, Richard C. Jelly, J. Nairn Findlay, James H. Cavers, Williaifi J. Fraser, Miss M. McPherson and Miss E. Viola Cummings. The two ladies did not attend the dinner, but were given wrist watches.
The following thirty-five employees with more than twenty-five years’ service received suitably engraved silver-plated trays: C. Herman Miller, Clarence A. Waugh, Bryan S. Drader, C. Leslie Mullins, C. Roy Cooke, John F. Stevens, William G. Lewis, J. Aylwin McAllister, C. Herbert Simpson, W. Alvin. Doe, Silas Davidson, George L. Bulloch, Robert H. Donahue, D. Alwyn Prime, Ernest Lay, Charles E. Johnston, Harry] J. Brebner, J. H enry McKittrick, Robert A. McDaniel, Keith C. MacNabb, Kenneth B. Howard, G. Ernest Giles, Ernest A. Buffam, William C. Cummings, John McDiarmid, Traverse E. Coates, Harold H. McaFdden, Russell E. Simpson, H arry P. Baird, D. Hamilton Findlay, George E. Findlay, John A. MacGregor, William K. White, R. Gordon: Drummond, Edward T. Bittle.
After the dinner, the recipients were given an opportunity to speak and many interesting anecdotes of the past were brought to life again. This is the second such presentation dinner. A similar one was held in 1949 at which 25 watches and 48 trays were presented.
It’s Findlay Friday yet again… and here we have one of the many photographs loaned to the Museum by Bill and Betty-Anne Findlay! This Findlay Family photograph depicts William Findlay (Bill’s grandfather and son of the Findlay Foundry founder, David Findlay) along with his wife and four children.
Seated in the front is Mr. William Findlay, his wife, Mrs Annie Shaw Cram Findlay, and their youngest daughter, Rosamund. Standing behind them are their three oldest children, William Fraser (Bill’s father), David Douglas, and Dorothy.
This photograph was taken in 1916, the day before David Douglas left for the war.
Someone sent me these screenshots today ( below). The post and accusations hit so far below the belt a response was required. For well over 4 years I have not responded to any of the ludicrous statements, or the fictitious (and sometimes vicious) assertions made about me. But these latest comments cross way over the line and are far beyond what could be considered political discourse. I respect myself too much to sit by and let someone attempt to body-shame me or suggest how I feel about my own body. No one speaks for me.
For the record, these photos were taken days apart and no photoshop was used. I don’t even have photoshop. The differences: on the left I’m standing in front of a big sunny window wearing makeup and used a flattering camera angle. On the right, my makeup and hair aren’t “done” and the photo is taken from a lower position. That’s it. (Although, I did notice this person altered the photo on the right – I was wearing a bright turquoise shirt that day but it has all been made to look grey…funny).
And you know what, I think I look great in both! One is planned and intentional, and in the other I was just happy to see my good friend Linda Seccaspina and have strawberry shortcake at the Appleton Museum. Both are awesome photos and neither make me feel even a drop less confident, beautiful or worthy. It’s about damn time we stopped telling women otherwise.
When did it become ok in our society to make baseless accusations and provide uninvited comments about women’s bodies? And what does any of that have to do with my politics or community leadership?
We must stop accepting this kind of behaviour in our community and in politics at ALL levels. We need to do so much better than this.
By Mary Cook Citizen special correspondent CARLETON PLACE (Special) February 22 1974
Those people who are directly-responsible for the welfare of the county of Lanark, the elected representatives, would concur the county is a beautiful place to live in, the urban centres modern and progressive, the people alert to new ideas and keenly aware of the need for continuing progress. In the most part they would be right, however there is one area in which the county is completely backward – that is in the electing or appointment of women to municipal or community office.
It is not easy being a woman in politics since this is predominantly a male territory. Women have to work harder. We have to prove ourselves more. We have to be more assertive. Politics is a man’s society– and most of the elected officials are men.
Many of the barriers women face right now have to do with the increased scrutiny that women are under generally. Women are judged much more harshly on social media. The internet gives people approval from a judging world.
Negative comments in terms of body image are the hardest thing that women probably struggle with. But I think the best thing that we can do as strong women is to take that negativity and use it in a positive way. There are so many young kids on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to not send the message of hate on to. Let’s pass on good words instead. This is my body- So Christa…. we love you and you are one of the strongest women I know…. and as you said, “What does any of that have to do with my politics or community leadership?”
Linda Seccaspina 8th female councillor of Carleton Place,Ontario since 1925 when women got the vote.
“Insecure people only eclipse your sun because they’re jealous of your daylight and tired of their dark, starless nights.”
The following article was published in 1954 in: “Textiles,” a leaflet published regularly by the Primary Textiles Institute of Canada, with headquarters in Toronto. When James Rosamond opened a wool cloth mill at Morphy’s Falls in the Ottawa Valley in 1845 it is doubtful whether he realized that he was founding one of Canada’s proudest, and later most unfortunate industries.
Rosamond moved the art of making wool textiles from the settlers’ home into an industrial plant and then for more than 100 years the industry developed with Canada, experiencing normal ups and downs but generally growing in stature. The Ottawa Valley remained the hub of the industry, but it spread out from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and the names of towns like Carleton Place (formerly Morphy’s Falls), Perth, Almonte, Renfrew, Arnprior, Appleton, Hespeler, Brantford) Lachute, Sherbrooke and Huntingdon became synonymous with fine woollens.
Through good times and bad the industry served the country well. Peak of operations was reached in the period 1948-1950. During World War II, mills provided millions of yards of Service fabric and in the immediate post-war era worked hard to meet the heavy accumulated demands they were expected to fill. The future was thought to hold promise. By 1950 the industry had some 16,000 workers in 200 mills and 146 communities and as a traditional Canadian industry was well established in towns where it was often the mainstay of the district. But then the industry became caught in an economic trap which had been set inadvertently fifteen years earlier, but which was only sprung by changing world conditions.
The stage was set in 1935 when the Canadian government, in the course of establishing tariffs on wool cloths entering this country from Great Britain, set a maximum duty to allow easy access to this market for a few English fabrics then considered to be in a “special” category. The blow began to fall about 1950 when increasing costs of raw wool, labour, chemicals machinery, etc., shoved most wool cloths into the bracket previously considered “special.”
The effective rate of the tariff on imports competing with Canadian cloths was greatly reduced and the duty no longer became anywhere near equalizing the wide differential in Canadian and English wages. The Labor Differential with most of their wool cloths entering Canada under a greatly reduced rate of duty English mills have been able during the past three or four years to take full advantage of their lower labour costs and shipments here have been increased in volume to take 40% of the entire market. Every yard of English wool cloth has been taken away from the Canadian industry and its workers.
Twenty eight mills have been closed. More than 6,000 people have lost their jobs and not all those remaining are working full time. Hardest hit have been Canada’s little “woollen” towns—in Renfrew the two mills that were the backbone of the town economy have closed, in Almonte employment dropped from 400 to about 45, at Carleton Place one mill closed and another is operating part-time, and in Huntingdon employment dropped from close to 700 to just over 200.
The story is the same almost everywhere. One of the casualties was James Rosamond’s historic business which was moved from Carleton Place to Almonte in 1857 and had operated there ever since. After being closed all last winter it now has 25 employees.
Victoria Woolen Factory (1830s)
The mill stood on river bank near James St. The Rosamond House (1838) which is still standing is at 37 Bell St.
James Rosamond operated a carding mill from 1838-1846 and then a custom carding and woolen mill from 1846 – 1857.
The Church Wardens of St. James Church here in 1845 were Catin Willis and James Rosamond, founder of the Rosamond textile manufacturing firm.
James Rosamond of Carleton Place, a shareholder of the short lived Ramsay corporation, then moved his woollen mill operations, the first in Eastern Ontario, from Carleton Place to Almonte as the founding of Almonte’s leading manufacturing enterprise. He bought the site of the Ramsay Company’s mill and built a four storey stone building, later known as No. 2 Mill, which he opened in 1857. Before its erection Samuel Reid and John McIntosh opened a small woollen factory in 1854 on the former site of the Boyce fulling mill. James Rosamond, who lived until 1894, gave the management of his growing business in 1862 to his sons Bennett and William, who doubled its plant capacity and in 1866 admitted George Stephen, Montreal woollen manufacturer, as a partner. He became Baron Mount Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal and first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
The new Rosamond firm of 1866 began operations by buying the Island property of some sixteen acres and building its No. 1 Mill, then one of the finest in Canada. Bennett Rosamond (1833-1910) was elected president of the Canadian Manufacturers Association in 1890 and was Conservative Member of Parliament for North Lanark from 1892-1904. He was president of the Almonte Knitting Company and in 1909 donated the Rosamond Memorial Hospital to the town. He continued as head of the Rosamond Woollen Company until his death, when he was succeeded by Lieutenant Alex Rosamond (1873-1916).
A number of other woollen mills opened soon after the original Rosamond mill in Almonte. Among the first were those of John McIntosh (1832-1904), a large frame building on the upper falls, and of John Baird (1820-1894) and Gilbert Cannon, all on Mill Street. Sawmills, machine shops and iron foundries followed, including among the latter the foundry operated for a few years by John Flett (1836-1900). A local real estate boom and flurry of inflated land speculation developed, only to collapse in a severe depression of the mid-seventies. A fire loss of over $20,000 in 1877 destroyed the Cannon mill and the machinery of its lessee William H. Wylie, who moved to Carleton Place where he leased the McArthur (now Bates) woollen mill and later bought the Hawthorne woollen mill. William Thoburn (1847-1928) began to manufacture flannels at Almonte in 1880 and became the head of the Almonte Knitting Company and Member of Parliament from 1908 to 1917. Five textile mills in Almonte in 1904 were those of the Rosamond Woollen Company, William Thoburn, James H. Wylie Co. Limited, Almonte Knitting Company, and the Anchor Knitting Co. Limited.
“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would; Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails, Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales.”
Every age, of course, has its dreamers. The Vision which Lord Tennyson expressed in “Locksley Hall” was written in the year 1842. The words have a prophetic ring about them, and might lead the incautious reader to impute just a little less than angelic insight into Tennyson, and a great deal more that human dreaming.
Yet, today, four-hundred passenger jet-powered aircraft zip in magic argosies through the purple twilight, wings outspread to span the continent in a bound, like eagles beating the air currents over a mountain pass. Nuclear power is no longer a maverick, but submits tamely to the harness. Occasionally too, after successful splashdown, men returning from a two-week rocket trip to the moon are greeted and welcomed back on earth as only ordinary heroes. It is the succeeding age that learns that dreams never do match stride with reality.
James Rosamond was a businessman in Carleton Place, but he became a dreamer in Almonte. It was thirty years after the Scots and Irish had arrived in “the place with a falls on the Mississippi” as Peter Robinson described in, and then years after Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall” had been put into circulation, and only a few months before the suggestion was made that the village might be called after a Mexican general who was then prominent in the news of the day.
Three hundred people were living in the village situated above the falls in the Mississippi River. Daniel Shipman had a sawmill below the falls, and a square timber-making yard above. The place was usually referred to as Shipman’s Mills. The age-old roar of the river in flood as it went crashing through the gorge, this was the sound that sang in the ears of the inhabitants both by day and by night. Only when summer came in and the river subsided did the roaring cease, and in its place the sounds of settlement took over, the rasp and scrape of the saw, the snick snick of the broad axe, and the clank of chains holding the boom logs together as they lapped so slightly in the current of the river above the falls.
James Rosamond emigrated from Ireland in 1827, and, after getting established, he formed business interests in Carleton Place in 1832 which comprised a wood-working plant, a grinding mill, and a custom carding plant. In 1846 he expanded the woollen end of things by adding spinning machines, and in this way he was responsible for the start of the woollen manufacturing business in Carleton Place.
In 1851 he ventured capital to become a partner in another enterprise, the Ramsay Woolen Cloth Manufacturing Company. The company’s principal share holders were local people around Shipman’s Mill. Daniel Shipman, of course, was one of them, and James Rosamond now found himself partnered with a vigorous enterpriser, and the reputed founder of the place by the falls on the Mississippi.
They acquired a mill site beside the cataract and then erected a frame mill and set to work. Demand for woollen products was very good amongst the people on the farms in Ramsay and Huntley, the mill was the first woollen mill in the place, and the future looked good. Their venture marked the beginning of what was to become the major industry of the place for the next hundred years.
Disaster, however, struck a scant two months after the mill had been put into operation. Fire broke out. The mill was totally destroyed, and the company was forced by circumstances to close down. Two years later, in 1853, James Rosamond bought the site and prepared to rebuild on the same spot. Mr. Rosamond, however was from Ireland, and this time he resolved to build in stone.
That winter of 1853 was eventful in many ways. Circumstances were just right to make an ordinary business minded person become a dreamer, and an ordinary dreamer become a prophet.
The name “Waterford” had been proposed for this place by the falls, but another locality in western Ontario had already usurped the Irish place name for itself. John Haskins suggested another to Major Gemmill. Almonte. The name was proposed officially, was accepted and remained.
For fifteen years also the Rideau Canal had been in operation and traffic moved regularly over the route from Bytown up the Rideau to Kemptville, Burritt’s Rapids, Merrickville, and a place called Smiths Falls, and thence through the Poonamalee locks and the lakes of the Big Rideau chain to Westport, on to Brewer’s Mills, Seeley’s Bay, and over the height of land at Cranberry Lake before dipping down to Cataraqui and Kingston.
Oh the canal was a great improvement. No doubt about it. It opened up the hinterland between Kingston and Ottawa, but still, transportation was a problem. Everybody knew that. Everyone talked about it, but very few seemed to have any idea what to do about it. People in the villages along the Mississippi, and especially those at Almonte, needed a means of transportation to enable them to break out of the bonds of the primitive land. The bush and the river were holding them back. They needed roads.
That winter of 1853 they called a public meeting in Almonte. The need for something to be done about transportation, that was the idea that triggered the meeting. The people wanted to find out if it would be possible to build a macadamized road the Smiths Falls where goods and produce could be put aboard boats moving through the Rideau Canal. If they could get into the big markets of the United States by shipping through the canal, commerce would be stimulated and the village would go forward.
James Rosamond was at the meeting, and was doing a lot of listening. Someone asked what could be done about the number of Irish navies who had been hired to work years before on the building of the Rideau Canal, and had been footloose, many of them, in the country since the completion of the canal. Ostensibly they were looking for work, but, of course, anyone without regular employment was suspect.
James Rosamond knew the skills of the Irish. They could build in stone. They could build macadamized roads, and they could build stone woollen mills. It took only a moment’s glance to tell there was lots of stone in the area around Almonte, and it was quite suitable for building purposes. Perhaps the Irish could be put to work on the mill he had in mind, or on the macadamized road, or both for that matter.
The someone at the meeting dropped a bomb. Heavens, the man said, why waste time on a macadamized road to Smiths Falls? Why not build a railway? In fact, why stop at Smiths Falls? Why not build a railway that would go straight through Carleton Place, Franktown, Smiths Falls, Jasper, right on down to the Front, to the St. Lawrence at Brockville? A railway would prove much more valuable for trade than the canal; it would open up the American market far more speedily than anything else for the goods and products that would come from mills now building and to be built to run from the falls of the Mississippi at this place now called Almonte.
A railway? The very idea intrigued James Rosamond. To Brockville on the St. Lawrence? Now there was vision. This Almonte was a forward looking place, and these were forward looking people. Just my kind of people, thought James Rosamond. The meeting broke up, but Mr. Rosamond, Daniel Shipman and a few others remained standing outside the meeting hall, looking at the river, the conversation continued about this new dimension in transportation. The men in the group seemed to be strangely taken. Something had come over them. Here they had come to a meeting to discuss building a macadamized road to Smiths Falls, and now, without warning, they found themselves in earnest discussion about a railroad to Brockville. For a moment Mr. Rosamond wondered if the scope of the venture had got out of control; yet, no denying it, the railroad idea had a lot of merit.
James Rosamond found his focus after the meeting had changed greatly from what it had been before. The Railroad now intruded on his mind so powerfully that he found he could neither shake free of its grasp nor swing this thoughts back to the mundane things like woolens, macadamized roads and stone mills.
In the end the clump of men outside the meeting hall decided to break up their discussion and return to their homes, but not before they took one firm resolve, they would make a journey to Brockville to discuss the matter with friends there at greater length, and, if the signs appeared favourable, to find associates in the town on the shore of the St. Lawrence, and enlist their support in sharing in a grand design, a railway to link the St. Lawrence River with the Ottawa River through Almonte.
In the fall of 1927, he arrived at the one-room schoolhouse as a 20-year-old fresh out of teachers’ college. He had no experience and 42 students spread out over Grades 1 to 8 to teach. “Sometimes I have no idea how I got through it,” Lloyd Sutherland, now 91, of Toronto said yesterday while attending the S.S. 4 Ramsay reunion in the Clayton Community Centre. “It was a lot of work, but I got through it.” By the next year, Mr. Sutherland had moved to a better-paying job in Pakenham in these early days of his 44-year career in education across the province, with a gap of four years when he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
And even though he spent only one year at the school, Mr. Sutherland says the lessons he learned in the village of Clayton, about 60 kilometres west of . Ottawa on the Indian River, were among the most valuable in his career. “You had to be a master at problem-solving, and you had to be good with , your time,” he said. “There were all those kids and just me. It was some of the hardest work I ever did, but some of the most rewarding, too.”
Mr. Sutherland was one of about 100 former students, teachers and administrators who attended the reunion at the village community centre. They couldn’t hold it in the schoolhouse because it’s now a private residence. The village of Clayton is a collection of houses, cottages and businesses clustered around the eastern end of Clayton-Taylor Lake. It is rich in Canadian cultural and social history. Much of that history could be found in the two, one-room schoolhouses that made indelible marks on the memories of teachers and young Clayton residents who passed through their doors in more than a century of learning.
The first schoolhouse was built in1849 and a second, slightly larger one was erected in 1876 to cope with a deluge of new students. Now, 29 years after the village closed its last one-room school in 1969, former teachers and students remembered minute details as if only days had passed since their time at each of the two tiny schools. “In the winter, you always hoped you got a seat close to the stove because the further you got away from it, the colder it got and the building wasn’t insulated,” said Rose Mary Sarsfield, who attended one of the schools from 1952 to 1956 before graduating to the high school in Almonte.
Many of the memories were sparked by a table with old notebooks, textbooks, a small chalkboard and newspaper clippings about the school. There were also a couple of report cards from 1933. One had straight As, the other was not so good. But what drew the eye were several pictures of children sitting cross-legged in front of a schoolhouse. One, from 1898, was particularly interesting.
Although the children were dressed differently some without shoes, some in waistcoats they looked like any group of schoolchildren today. One rapscallion, all but his head hidden in the back row of students, was even sticking out his tongue at the camera. The pictures spoke of a different time that ended in 1969, when rural one-room schools were closed across the province to make way for a new vision of education housed in larger schools in the larger centres of Ontario communities.
In Ramsay Township, 10 small schools were closed and many students including those from Clayton were bused to nearby Almonte to 1 pursue their education in single grades. It was an unceremonious end to a school that was once the pride of the village. Before the first schoolhouse was built, reading, writing and arithmetic were taught out of private homes. Clayton trustees borrowed $450 a overcrowded ‘ at hefty sum in 1849 to build their village’s first school, a debt that had to be paid back within three years. Soon, the one-room was overcrowded with students.
In 1876, a slightly larger school that measured 28 feet by 38 feet (eight metres by 11 metres) was built beside the original. “It had a cloakroom across the back where we could hang our coats,” remembered Ms. Sarsfield. “And bathrooms. There were two bathrooms at the back, one for girls and one for boys. “There was no running water.” At the smaller school, bathroom breaks were even less high-tech. One side of a bush was an outhouse for girls and the other side was for boys.
The next addition to Clayton’s school system was the hallmark of any rural school from that time period: a bell. In 1886, students, teachers and parents hosted concerts at which they charged 10 cents until they raised enough money to buy a bell. The final cost of the bell is unknown, but it hung at the larger school until closing. The bell now hangs at the front of the Dr. James Naismith School in Almonte, about 10 kilometres east of Clayton. During Clayton’s heydays in the late 1880s, there were some 140 pupils shared almost evenly between the two schoolhouses. The smaller building housed the primary grades and the larger one, the senior grades.
Teachers came and went. Their stints generally lasted two or three years. Margaret Bellamy, a longtime resident in the community, figures probably 100 teachers taught in the Clayton schools. “In the start, it was mostly men, but then mostly women by the end,” Mrs. Bellamy said. By the early 1900s, the village population couldn’t sustain a school for primary grades and a second school for senior grades. Down from historic highs, only 60 students attended classes between the two schools. In 1907, the smaller schoolhouse was taken down meticulously piece by piece and moved to Almonte, where it was rebuilt.
Heading into the 1960s, the wave of consolidation began to sweep through the Ottawa Valley as students began moving to larger schools in the region. By 1969 there were perhaps 30 students at Clayton’s remaining school. “Bigger was better, they thought. Truck them all to town and then they’ll all be in single grades. It was a sign of the times, I guess,” *Mrs. Sarsfield said. But for many at the reunion, bigger isn’t better when they reflect on the time they spent at the school. “A lot of people started their education in schools like S.S. 4 Ramsay,” Mr. Sutherland said. “And because they were small, people learned differently. The older students helped teach the younger ones. It gave people more of a sense of community you don’t get in larger schools. “I liked teaching in schools like that, but they’re gone now. Oh well, we’ll just have to remember.” The Fight Over One Room Schools in 1965!
Looking down Hopetown road… Photo from Laurie Yuill
Life in Lanark County as I have said before was not easy. Their big day was New Years day and included a “first footin”,–which was a tour of neighbour’s homesteads on the snow-drifted concession lines. Then they quaffed each other in almost a competition style drinking home brew liquor, and danced to the mad music of the fiddles. The Carleton Place Herald of 100 years ago wrote about the harshness of the Lanark County frontier. Life was raw in our villages, but they managed to eat three times a day, but there was little of what we would call “fancy food”.
In the issue of December 1954 the Carleton Place Herald, with Editor Jamie Poole ran a column about the old Bytown markets in the 1800s. Our Upper and Lower Town merchants were then offering flour extra superfine, at 2 shillings per cwt…